Grin and bare

Once ter­ri­fied of public speak­ing, un­der­wear model Matt Wil­son is now at ease join­ing the Neigh­bours cast as a male strip­per, writes Shan­non Mol­loy

Herald Sun - Switched On - - COVER STORY -

Many of Matt Wil­son’s re­cent jobs seem to in­volve get­ting his kit off in one way or another, whether it’s mod­el­ling un­der­wear or pos­ing shirt­less on a build­ing site.

The 26-year-old is con­tin­u­ing that trend, hav­ing just de­buted on Neigh­bours as a gay male strip­per.

“He’s a very con­fi­dent young guy,” Wil­son laughs. “There isn’t much that fazes him. He loves life and has an in­grained de­sire to make ev­ery­one around him happy.”

His char­ac­ter Aaron Bren­nan — the mid­dle brother of lo­cal cop Mark and res­i­dent bad boy Tyler — ar­rived in Erins­bor­ough via a book­ing to strip at a racy bingo night at lo­cal pub The Wa­ter­hole.

That colour­ful and abrupt en­trance is pretty fit­ting for Wil­son, who just five short years ago had a sim­i­larly un­ex­pected nudge to­wards fame.

Back then, he was a hum­ble and anony­mous car­pen­ter, toil­ing away on build­ing sites in Syd­ney, and never imag­ined a life in front of the cam­era.

“I won this com­pe­ti­tion called Aus­tralia’s Hottest Tradie in 2010. There was no real skill in­volved in that, but it gave me this plat­form all of a sud­den. As part of it, I had to do some pre­sent­ing, ap­pear­ance and speak­ing

jobs.”

The trou­ble was that Wil­son bat­tled ex­treme anx­i­ety is­sues, pre­fer­ring to shun the lime­light be­cause of crip­pling stage fright.

“It was pretty shock­ing. Stand­ing up in front of peo­ple, even a small group, I’d feel so anx­ious and just ut­terly ter­ri­fied. … It’s hor­ri­ble. My voice would go all mono­tone. I’d freeze (and) feel like I was chok­ing.

“It wasn’t nice. Even hav­ing to give a speech at a wed­ding was nerve-rack­ing. I just couldn’t do it.”

The idea of per­form­ing had al­ways ap­pealed to him though, so Wil­son sought about con­fronting his fears and mak­ing the most of the new op­por­tu­ni­ties in front of him.

“I took my­self off to NIDA (Na­tional In­sti­tute of Dra­matic Arts) to do some classes. … They teach you how to own the stage and feel at ease.”

It worked — so much so that one of the teach­ers sug­gested Wil­son try his hand at act­ing. There were a few small roles to fol­low, in­clud­ing in Un­der­belly: The Golden Mile and travel show Get­away.

But the big­gest thing to come out of be­ing de­clared the na­tion’s hottest tradesman was a phone call from pop­u­lar undies brand, aussieBum.

“They asked me to model for them and I thought, why not? The shoot was out­side in a public park and it was very over­whelm­ing,” Wil­son says. “I felt naked. I mean, I pretty much al­most was.”

He has since ap­peared in var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional ad cam­paigns and be­come some­thing of a pin-up.

“It’s a fun job. I kind of en­joy that ner­vous energy that comes with it and the hi­lar­ity of stand­ing around out­side in my jocks,” he says.

Wil­son hung up his tool belt ear­lier this year to put all of his energy into chas­ing his big act­ing break on Neigh­bours.

A few months in, he de­scribes the TV set as “the friendli­est work­place ever”. He has par­tic­u­larly bonded with the ac­tors who play his on­screen broth­ers Scott McGre­gor and Travis Burns, who por­tray Mark and Tyler.

“We clicked straight away,” Wil­son says. “While I was wait­ing to hear whether I got the job, I was watch­ing the show re­li­giously and see­ing those guys on screen was awe­some.”

But the job meant re­lo­cat­ing from Syd­ney to Mel­bourne, leav­ing be­hind a group of mates and his long-term girl­friend.

“It has been a huge ad­just­ment. I won’t lie. But I’m ab­so­lutely lov­ing it so far,” he says. “How of­ten do peo­ple get to turn their pas­sion into a ca­reer?”

“Even hav­ing to give

a speech at a wed­ding was nerver­ack­ing. I just couldn’t do it”

MATT WIL­SON ON ANX­I­ETY IS­SUES

NEIGH­BOURS, ELEVEN, WEEK­DAYS, 6.30PM

Matt Wil­son in his new role

and as a model (be­low) for undies brand aussieBum.

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